02 July 2020

July's Best Photo Festivals

02 July 2020 - Written by Simon Hall

As lockdowns in select regions across Europe begin to ease, the festival season is slowly ramping back up, with Noorderlicht International Photo Festival (The Netherlands) and La Gacilly Photo Festival (France) among those opening physical exhibitions this month. Others like Cortona On The Move, meanwhile, continue to respond to the crisis by moving initiatives online. Check out what they have in store.

Cortona On The Move / From 11 July / Online

© Nanna Heitmann, from the series Pandemic of Social Inquality

Cortona On The Move is back once again this July with a special edition dedicated entirely to covering COVID-19. The curatorial team has partnered with Intesa Sanpaolo to conceive and produce a digital multi-media platform titled The COVID-19 Visual Project. A Time of Distance. The initiative aims to provide a permanent and constantly updated archive on the coronavirus pandemic and – through the use of visual narrative languages (photography, videos, texts, sounds) – it will document its consequences on the lives of millions of people around the world.

The content of the platform, organised in seven themed chapters, is developed through author projects commissioned by Cortona On The Move to world-renowned photographers and video-makers in Italy and around the world. The main narrative line consists of the stories that document this period of crisis, focusing on issues such as the health emergency, the economic repercussions, and the social and individual consequences. Some of the standout work on display includes Jérôme Sessini’s portrayal of a field hospital dedicated to tackling the outbreak of COVID-19 in northeastern France; Alessio Romenzi’s depiction of the commitment and resilience of health workers and residents at an Italian nursing home; Edoardo Delille’s exploration of the emptied squares and symbolic landmarks of Florence; Gabriele Galimberti’s portraits of independent shopkeepers in Turin and Milan who have kept a light alive on the streets that were plunged into darkness; and Nanna Heitmann’s visual essay on how different charities are helping Moscow’s most vulnerable communities through the pandemic. Other internationally-recognised artists in the form of Simon Norfolk, Alex Majoli, Gaia Squarci, Luis Cobelo, Gideon Mendel, and Andrea Frazzetta, among many others, also have work on the platform.

The project will continue to be updated until a vaccine for Covid-19 is found. Check it out at

Noorderlicht International Photo Festival / The Netherlands / 4 July - 20 September

© Randa Maroufi, from the series Bab Sebta. 2020 exhibitor

Under the curatorship of Robert Jan Verhagen, the 27th edition of Noorderlicht International Photography Festival is titled Generation Z and will seek to examine the mindset and energy of the youngest generation of world citizens, born after 1995. What is their place in society? How do they see their future? What are their ambitions? By tapping into these questions – the hopes and fears of Generation Z – Noorderlicht aims to provide insights into their young adult world. “If one thing is clear to this generation it’s this: the current system no longer suffices,” state the curatorial team. “They collectively take to the streets to bring about change and fight hand in hand for a new balance between the forces that must guarantee the future of this planet. The selected artists in this festival show a generation focusing on fundamental emancipation processes.”

Among the exhibition highlights, Randa Maroufi presents her award-winning movie that transcribes the extraordinary tension and energy that is felt in a small Spanish enclave in the north of Morocco; Malou Bumbum showcases a selection of her self-portraits that explore her identity and what it means to be a woman in contemporary society; Karolina Wojtas takes a colourful, often humourous, but also disturbing approach to expose a Polish education system that is rapidly changing; Uzbek photographer Hassan Kurbanbaev observes with amazement how his fellow countrymen have rampantly incorporated symbols of Western riches into their daily lives; and Sarker Protick creates fictional scenes of violence that comment on the political murders and disappearances that have plagued Bangladesh since the social unrest in 2013. Elena Aya Bundurakis, Jan Stradtmann, Madeline Swainhart, Marie Lukasiewicz, Sebastian Steveniers, Viktor Naumovski, and Sheng-Wen Lo are also among the names on display. Further information can be found at

La Gacilly Photo Festival / La Gacilly, France / 1 July - 31 October

© Nadia Shira Cohen, from the series God's Honey. 2020 exhibitor

Set in the heart of the rural environment of Brittany, France, La Gacilly Photo Festival has forged an international reputation on its commitment to exploring the great social and environmental challenges facing society today. Festival-goers this year can discover three outdoor free-to-access exhibition routes each dedicated to the themes Climate and Photography, Viva Latina!, and Preserving Biodiversity.

This program brings together 18 main shows, the highlights of which feature Sebastião Salgado’s frighteningly beautiful array of images depicting lines of human ants scouring the earth for a vein of gold in Brazil; Luisa Dörr’s work portraying the Bolivian women who adopt the very masculine codes of wrestling to empower fellow women in their community; Carolina Arantes’ candid series offering a close-up view of the damage caused by huge fires and widespread deforestation in the Amazon; Tomás Munita’s documentation of the ancestral lifestyle of Chilean gauchos as they journey to capture feral cattle in the steppes and mountains of Sutherland in the south of the country; and Nadia Shira Cohen’s long-term project in the Yucatán Peninsula that explores how the over-exploitation of land has triggered a domino effect with irreversible consequences for the surrounding fauna and flora.

In the supporting events, Emmanuel Berthier will host a collection of workshops aimed at photographers looking to perfect nature photography, and over 350 students from 16 schools have worked together to curate a special exhibition that speaks about diversity and the multiplicity of our environment. To learn more, check out

PhotoIreland Festival / Dublin, Ireland / 8 - 19 July

© Ciril Jazbec, from the series The Ice Stupas. 2020 exhibitor

The 11th edition of PhotoIreland Festival, curated under the title ON/OFF, will present a combination of both online and offline activities exploring a wide variety of subjects, themes, and practices. “The team here has remained optimistic and creative throughout the last few months,” write the organisers. “We’re adapting to the continuously changing circumstances and focusing on the opportunities presented by the rapid shift to online experiences – a sort of global digital exodus.”

The festival will kick off via Zoom at 6pm on Wednesday 8 July with an introduction by Director Ángel Luis González and then a performance by Berlin-based Albanian artist Anna Ehrenstein. In the 11 days that follow, a packed online program has been set up, the highlights of which include a Screen Walk around Irish artist Conor McGarrigle’s practice with digital curators Jon Uriarte and Marco de Mutiis; a virtual live streamed journey with artists Geraldine Juárez and Mario Santamaría as they critically look at the hidden power dynamics behind the Google Arts and Culture Project; and a panel discussion with the contributors of PhotoIreland’s new OVER journal that proposes a wholesome, honest, and critical observation of lens-based, contemporary practices.

Elsewhere, in the main offline event, The Library Project will host the travelling Tokyo International Photography Competition exhibition that features the work of Hashem Shakeri, Gregg Segal, Turjoy Chowdhury, Acacia Johnson, Ciril Jazbec, Charlotta María Hauksdóttir, Ryota Kajita, and Robin Michals. For more information, go to



Helsinki Photo Festival / Helsinki, Finland / 7 July - 30 September

The Helsinki Photo Festival pushes the boundaries for exploring photography in Finland and brings the artistic medium of photography back on the streets. Amidst the wave of cancellation of cultural events sweeping the cultural scene all over the world, HPF is going forward and continues building its program for the festival this summer. For a period of twelve weeks, between 7 July and 30 September, the event will feature artist-talks, workshops, seminars, portfolio reviews, photo walks, and exhibitions inviting all photo enthusiasts of any age to experience extraordinary innovative images taken by Nordic and international photographers.


Ragusa Foto Festival / Sicily, Italy / 24 - 26 July

Since 2012, Ragusa Foto Festival has worked as an "incubator" for young photographers; as a platform where they can learn from others as much as see their creativity appreciated. The organisers have dedicated the 9th edition to Desire. “What if desire was above all the conservation of our species, our environments, our dignity, our possibility of being there?” they ask. “What if it rose again as a quest for meaning, an opportunity to lift humanity, to boost life for real and in all its nuances?” This year, the festival will explore these questions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation of the festival adopted some measures and changes to the time schedule. The festival will have a preview from 24 through 26 July, while the main programming will take place in the summer of 2021 and will be preceded during the year by a plurality of cultural initiatives.


Visit our festivals page to get a full view of what’s on the photography calendar this year.

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

9 minutes